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European imperialists deploy military forces in Libya evacuations

U.S. imposes sanctions as oil companies salivate over prospect of ‘regime change’

Published Feb 27, 2011 5:37 PM

Feb. 27 -- As fighting continues between government forces and an opposition that is increasingly carrying out military attacks and has taken control of much of Libya’s oil-producing regions, tens of thousands of foreign nationals are leaving the country.

The vast majority are workers who have left on civilian vessels -- ferry boats, commercial ships and chartered planes. Other thousands have left by road.

However, the NATO countries -- particularly Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy -- have sent warships and warplanes to Libya, ostensibly to rescue a few hundred of their nationals. The most complete tally of the evacuations is being provided by Reuters.

China has already evacuated more than 20,000 of its nationals. Turkey has evacuated more than 7,000. These tens of thousands of workers have left on civilian ships and planes and by road.

The Philippine government plans to lease commercial planes to repatriate about half of the 26,000 Filipinos working in Libya’s medical and oil industries.

But Germany sent three warships and 600 troops to evacuate a few hundred of its nationals. It also sent two military transport planes to a desert oil site to fly out 132 Germans and other European Union citizens.

Britain sent the warship HMS Cumberland and the destroyer York to do the same. It also sent a plane of the Royal Air Force, which left Tripoli with 65 aboard even as the British government called a meeting of its Cobra security cabinet and said sending in special forces was not being ruled out.

France sent a squadron of transport military aircraft to land directly at oil fields south of Benghazi and pick up its people. Spain also used an armed forces plane to evacuate 124 people from Tripoli.

Britain, France, Germany and Spain -- the four countries to mobilize their militaries -- are all members of NATO.

The U.S., also a NATO member, has not ruled out military force against Libya. On Feb. 25 the White House announced it would unilaterally impose sanctions on Libya, which includes freezing billions of dollars in Libyan government assets. The next day, the U.N. Security Council also imposed sanctions. These moves will punish the Libyan people as well as the government headed by Moammar Gadhafi.

All of this is in stark contrast to the response of the imperialist governments to the mass rebellions going on elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East.

All along, the U.S. in particular has given lip service to the unarmed demonstrators while calling for a “transition to democracy” that would keep the ruling classes and their state structures in place.

But with Libya it is different. The U.S. and the other imperialists are cheering on the armed rebellion and predicting the downfall of the government. Those in the opposition given the greatest prominence by the corporate media are spokespeople for the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, a group with a 31-year history of working with the U.S. CIA and which has launched military attacks and assassination attempts against Gadhafi before.

Hard, cold economic facts show why the U.S. ruling class wants the overthrow of Gadhafi, and it has nothing to do with democracy.

Recent discoveries show that Libya has the largest proven oil reserves on the continent of Africa -- 47 billion barrels, according to the CIA World Factbook. This is the ninth largest in the world, and the largest supply close to European markets. At the present time, however, Libya is only Africa’s third-largest producer of oil, behind Nigeria and Angola. With the price of crude oil at around $100 a barrel and rising, this means that Libya’s small population of 6 million people is sitting on a potential king’s ransom.

Gadhafi had nationalized the oil, then largely in British hands, after leading a military coup in 1969 that ousted a pro-British monarchy. Social programs enacted then, including subsidizing most necessities with proceeds from the oil, quickly raised the standard of living of the people. But in recent years Gadhafi has made many concessions to the imperialists. In 2003, after enormous threats and pressures, he agreed to IMF-imposed “structural adjustment” measures that eliminated most subsidies and also let in European oil companies. This clearly angered many Libyans.

However, Gadhafi did not open up Libya to U.S. oil companies, which are now salivating over the vast profits that “regime change” could bring them.